How to make a toxic-free home for your baby

Experts warn against certain chemicals found in everyday mother-baby products.

Having a baby certainly brings change to a household. When Shiri Sarfati decided it was time to be a mom, she turned her home upside down.

“As soon as we started thinking about having a baby, I wanted our home to be free of chemicals,” says the native New Yorker. “When I was pregnant, I became so sensitive to even the smell of Windex, I just couldn’t be anywhere near it.”

Her body also became sensitive to beauty products, too, and now that she’s breastfeeding, she’s extravigilant: “If I eat broccoli and it makes the baby gassy, then [it only follows that] if I use a chemical in a skin care product, it’s going to have an effect,” she surmises.

Annette Rubin, the co-author of “Belli Beautiful: The Essential Guide to the Safest Health and Beauty Products for Pregnancy, Mom, and Baby,” agrees. “Pregnant moms should avoid teratogens — ingredients that have been linked to birth defects. New moms should avoid ingredients that may be harmful to their breast milk supply, and babies should be kept clear of hormone-mimicking ingredients.”

Rubin says that pregnant and nursing moms need to become label-reading experts: “Deciphering the labels on health and beauty products can be a challenge if you didn’t major in chemistry with a minor in Latin,” says Rubin. “You have to review the ingredient research and use that knowledge to change your purchasing habits.”

As executive vice president of her mother’s seaweed-based skin care line, Repêchage, Sarfati knows firsthand about dangerous synthetic chemicals.

“I learned from my mother about what’s going into a product,” she says. “Consumers ask more questions these days and that’s very good. But we need to stay aware.”

What to avoid

Sarfati’s chemical no-no list is long, but these are at the top of it:

Petrolatum
The oil industry by-product, listed in the European Union’s Dangerous Substances Directive (UNECE 2004), is linked with breast cancer. “It’s in the leading brand of baby care products and cosmetics. It interferes with the body’s natural moisturizers and makes your skin drier.”

Synthetic fragrance and colors
“These are superfluous. People want bright, pretty colors, but natural pigments create nice shades, too. We are inhaling these toxic fumes in our homes on a daily basis. Fragrances can be a great irritant and cause allergies. Breathing in a toxic cloud is not good.”

BPA (bisphenol A)
“There are so many BPA-free bottles and toys on the market and many retailers banned BPA products. Glass bottles and wooden toys are also available, but not as widely distributed as plastics. Soft toys made from organic cotton are great as well.”

Expert-approved sunscreens for kids

Don’t let all of Mother Nature’s bounty fool you: Ingredients like lavender might be good for aging bodies, but not for young skin, Rubin says. “People have this perception that because it’s natural, it’s great, but we’re trying to debunk that myth,” she says.

She recommends:

  • Babo Botanicals Clear Zinc Sport Stick SPF 30, $8, www.amazon.com
  • Episencial Sunny Sunscreen SPF 35, $15, www.drugstore.com
  • Dr. Robin for Kids All Natural Chemical-Free Sunscreen SPF 30, $28, www.amazon.com
  • Lavanila Healthy Baby Block SPF 40, $20, www.sephora.com

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